I dread going to the dentist. But a few weeks ago, I went anyway—mostly because my wife, Holly, had been asking me to make an appointment. She tells me she “loves me enough” to encourage routine dental cleanings.
Though it didn’t feel like it as I reclined in the dentist’s chair, I knew Holly sent me there out of love. That’s because the visit wasn’t for Holly, and it wasn’t for the dentist (though I’m sure he’s happy to have my business). It was for me.
As Christians, sometimes we see spiritual disciplines—especially those that make us uncomfortable—the same way. We see them as something God demands from us. The truth is, though, God loves us and wants these things for us.
It’s true: We are deeply fulfilled when we reflect His character.
The one spiritual discipline I think many of us resist is generosity, but we must give if we’re going to become more like God. That’s because God is the ultimate Giver: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB).
God knows we’re at our best when we give.
We can understand giving on three levels: small offerings; tithing (the scriptural mandate to give 10 percent of your earnings to your local church); and radical, mind-blowing generosity. But, you might wonder, is it OK to put giving on hold when you’re throwing every extra dime at your debt?
You might be surprised at my reply. Are you ready? The answer is, no. Here’s why:
The Bible never mentions anything about hitting the pause button on tithing. Now, it doesn’t say we’ll go to hell if we don’t tithe, but the tithe is clearly a scriptural command from God. In fact, in Malachi 3:10, God actually promises to bless us if we faithfully tithe.
Here’s something else… Many people have noticed that when they stop tithing, their finances seem to get worse. Whoa. That’s why I would never suggest pausing it to pay down debt. You can probably find other areas to trim if you try. If we can’t live off 90 percent of our income, then we probably can’t live off 100 percent either.
Here’s what I recommend: When you make your next monthly budget, pay God first. Then use what you have left to pay yourself. Take care of food, shelter, transportation and clothing. Then attack those debts. I promise if you stick to the plan, you’ll have them paid off soon enough.
And as you give, remember to do it with a full heart. As Paul told the Christians in Corinth, that’s what God’s concerned with most:
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV).
I won’t be mad at you for not tithing, because Jesus certainly was not. But I encourage you to continue doing it even as you dig your way out of debt. Once you’re debt-free and you’ve taken care of your own household’s needs (1 Timothy 5:8), you can blow people away with your generosity and maybe even win a few hearts for Christ.
Now that’s what God loves to see.
This article originally appeared here.